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Cosmetic Surgery Tax Not a Great Idea

By July 28, 2009 No Comments

Seattle Plastic SurgeonAll the buzz this morning has been about a possible cosmetic surgery tax being imposed on patients that choose elective procedures as a way to finance health care reform.

According to FOX News Congress blog The Speaker’s Lobby, the idea came from a treasury department official, but it sounds as if the tax proposal is “off the table” for now. Apparently, most finance committee members have not even heard of the proposal.

The LA Times reports that the tax was to be introduced as a ten percent charge that would be tacked onto elective procedures like a tummy tuck, breast augmentation, rhinoplasty, and other popular cosmetic enhancements. The Times also quotes Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus referencing the newly proposed tax proposal ideas as “creative” and “kind of fun.”

There are two solid objections that most cosmetic surgeons would level against this proposal. First and foremost, such a tax would be paid almost entirely by women. Despite the growing popularity of cosmetic procedures for men, women still make up over 90 percent of the patient demographic in the United States. One might argue that imposing a tax such as the one in question would unfairly discriminate against women. Think about it this way: would a tax be imposed on men who purchase expensive tattoos, fashionable clothing, or bodybuilding equipment? It doesn’t seem likely.

Second, the common misconception that’s probably at work here (which may have been true in the past) is that only the wealthy pursue cosmetic surgery. Maybe you can remember the New York Times story by Natasha Singer titled “Who Is the Real Face of Plastic Surgery?” Ms. Singer discussed the fact that a large number of patients choose to finance their cosmetic procedures, just as they would a new car. Also, let’s not forget the 2004 patient demographic survey conducted by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons; it revealed that nearly “a third of people considering plastic surgery reported average household incomes below $30,000.”